Over the next few years Salt Lake Community College’s Culinary Institute will be restructuring and expanding its program to include a Hospitality and Restaurant Management (HRM) and baking/pastry path for students.
“In the next year, we are revising the culinary program itself. We are fixing some classes, fixing some shortfalls, combining a couple classes into one, making more of a capstone class. Next year, we hope to run a restaurant here at the Miller Campus. So that’s the first phase,” says Basil Chelemes, associate professor in Business Management and a 23-year teaching veteran of SLCC.
The phasing of the expansion includes the introduction of entirely new, stand-alone but interdisciplinary programs for SLCC.
“Our goal is to have stackable credentials. A student can earn Certificates of Proficiency, Certificates of Completion and also the A.A.S. track in HRM. Baking and pastry will probably come a year or two after that,” says Chelemes. “From there, we will begin the process, some developed now and some next year, of the Hospitality Management program. This program will be unique because we will draw from other disciplines.”
The idea of fusion in culinary arts is applicable to SLCC’s expanding program, because it is why culinary education is such a hot topic, why programs across the country are expanding and why entire television food-oriented networks have emerged, according to Chelemes.
“We’ve become more global, and so we have to be more aware,” says Chelemes.
“Salt Lake for example has an influx of Spanish-speaking and Hispanic population, and we have a large Asian population, and so diversity through culinary is a great way to gain that awareness.”
The growth in culinary arts and need for culinary education in Salt Lake City is an extension of a greater Utah economic picture.
“I think what’s happening is that Utah has become a travel destination. Tourism. When you have some of the top ski resorts in the country here, you have some of the most beautiful natural formations here in southern Utah, the state has reasons to have tourism here,” says Chelemes, who teaches management classes that bridge business and culinary.
“It’s important to get those degrees, because Salt Lake is becoming a convention hub, and it’s only going to get bigger. We see that there is that need, and it would give students that ability. Right now we only offer a culinary degree, but it needs to be expanded.”
The baking and pastry program is “down the road, part of a five-year plan,” according to Chelemes; once the overall culinary program is restructured, and the HRM program is in place.
“I am hoping for more [baking] classes,” says Chef Laura Marone, an instructor of the Culinary Institute’s lone baking course. “We have to cram everything in one semester, and it’s not possible. Culinary Arts has one baking class to have everything in it—pastry, baking, cake decorating, plated desserts.”
In culinary schools that have a separate baking and pastry program, these options are typically offered as distinct courses and specializations.
“If they had a baking-specific program, I would come back,” says Rachelle Vandruff, a fourth semester culinary student who is currently taking the baking course. “The baking has already proven essential for learning a foundation and good basics.”
Until that expansion, “we have to do everything in one 16-week semester,” says Marone.
Marone will take a class with internationally-known baking chef, Nick Malgieri, at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, a place once known for having the likes of Julia Childs teaching classes. The class will give Marone the opportunity to tour the school.
“They do have a baking program and a hospitality program. I am going to see how they do it,” says Marone. “It’s very famous, the baking and pastry program. Nick Malgieri is the director and made the curriculum.”
For SLCC, it is not the curriculum development or finding the right mix of instructors that is preventing the plan to move forward more quickly.
“The hardest part is that our current facility isn’t set up for the potential number of students we could be getting,” says Chelemes.
“That’s the biggest reason we can’t just jump into the baking and pastry A.A.S. at this point in time. We just don’t have the lab space.”
Both Chelemes and Marone are hopeful a solution will come to fruition soon.
“I think it will be great, and they will attract even more people because a lot of students want to do just that,” says Marone. “It’s a big thing. They [SLCC] will have to invest. I hope they have the funds for that. A lot of people want to do it. They will attract a lot of students because there is nothing [like it] in Utah.”
Students recognize the potential as well.
“I know a lot of people who have expressed interest in taking baking and pastry classes, such as continuing education. I think it would be good,” says Leland Redd, a current culinary student taking baking this semester.